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Graduating from high school is not only a strong predictor of adult success but also of adult physical and mental health outcomes and involvement with the criminal justice system, yet approximately 15% of students in North Carolina who enter high school each fall will not graduate within four or even five years.

North Carolina’s public school dropout rate slightly increased in 2014-15.  The state’s dropout rate rose to 2.39 percent (11,190 students) from 2.28 percent (10,404 students) the previous year. The .11 percentage point increase was the first increase in the dropout rate since 2006-07, when the dropout rate increased from 5.04 to 5.24.

What You Should Know -  Dropout Statistics in North Carolina

  • Students dropped out most frequently at 10th grade (30 percent), followed by 9th grade (28.1 percent).
  • The number of high school students dropping out increased at all grade levels and for all ethnic groups except Asian, which decreased.
  • Males accounted for 62 percent of reported dropouts, which was down from the 62.7 percent reported last year.
  • Attendance issues were again the reason most often cited for dropping out, accounting for 40.3 percent of all dropouts. Enrollment in a community college came in second at 15.8 percent.

10 North Carolina School Districts Reporting the Lowest Dropout Rates

Newton-Conover City Schools (0.19)                                   
Hyde County Schools (0.61)                                     
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (0.67)                 
Union County Schools (0.99)                                    
Macon County Schools (1.03)  
Clinton City Schools (1.05)
Washington County Schools (1.08)
Graham County Schools (1.09)
Currituck County Schools (1.13)
Yadkin County Schools (1.17)

For information on dropout rates for your school/district and other key findings, consult the 2014-15 Consolidated Data Report
(pdf, 2.3mb)

The Difference Between Graduation Rate and Dropout Rate
In considering the annual dropout rate, it is critical to note that this rate is not the same as the four-year cohort graduation rate. The cohort graduation rate follows a group of ninth graders across four years’ time and reports the percentage of these students who graduate four years after beginning high school. North Carolina high schools reported a record-high 85.4 percent four-year cohort graduation rate for the class of 2015.

The annual dropout rate illustrates the number and percentage of students who drop out during one year’s time. Some of these students may return to school the following year and complete high school while others may drop out multiple times. The four-year cohort graduation rate is considered a more comprehensive picture of the issue of students’ persistence and high school completion.

NC Community College Adult High School Program
The State Board of Education revised policy GCS-Q-000 allowing districts to code students transitioning (withdrawing) from a public high school to a community college Adult High School diploma program as W2T.  Following specific guidelines, W2T students (dropouts) may be included in a school’s dropout count but excluded from the dropout calculation.  Click here for more information.